School Environment Has Little Effect on Teen Mental Health

However, student perceptions of teacher support, school connectedness can improve emotional health

MONDAY, April 2 (HealthDay News) -- There is limited evidence that the school environment impacts adolescent mental health, according to a review published online April 2 in Pediatrics.

To investigate the importance of the school environment for adolescent emotional health, Judi Kidger, Ph.D., of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a systematic literature review. Cohort or controlled trial designs that reported emotional health outcomes and school environment exposure or intervention were included (age of participants, 11 to 18 years).

The researchers identified nine papers reporting five controlled trials as well as 30 cohort papers reporting 23 studies. Two nonrandomized trials provided some evidence that a supportive school environment improved student emotional health, but this was not the case in three randomized controlled trials. Six cohort papers investigated school-level factors and found they had no effect. Some evidence indicated that individual perceptions of school connectedness and teacher support were predictive of future emotional health. School effects were found to be smaller than individual-level effects in multilevel studies. Methodological shortcomings were frequently seen.

"There is limited evidence that the school environment has a major influence on adolescent mental health, although student perceptions of teacher support and school connectedness are associated with better emotional health," the authors write.

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